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The Prime Minister must continue to prioritise social care

3 min read

Backbench rebellions, cabinet infighting and front-page headlines have once again greeted proposals of a solution on how we fund social care.

Everyone has something to say on Boris’s plan. He’s the latest incumbent of Number 10 to feel the heat on this thorniest of issues.

Pre the 2010 election, Labour was accused of plotting a "death tax" to fund care. Then Theresa May’s proposal was labelled a "dementia tax". The result was a very hard kick into the long grass for the issue.

But the latest announcement was a step forward. A start in addressing decades of failure by different Governments to act on social care reform.

Why is getting reform right so important? Just ask the people who draw on social care, not only to survive but for independence, the ability to learn, earn a living, socialise.

Not having quality social care, tailored to need, denies disabled people these fundamental rights.

One of our campaigners, Hannah, said, “If you have good social care, it changes your life forever”.  We know through talking to disabled people that social care empowers and transforms lives and further skilful reform could potentially generate funds for the exchequer. More widely available social care could generate up to £20bn a year for the UK economy, with social care investment essentially paying for itself.

I look forward to seeing how big the Government is dreaming as far as social care is concerned.

This may not fit with the prevailing image of the sector, so often focussed on the needs of older people. But half of social care spending goes on supporting working age disabled people.

There’s no denying additional social care funds are desperately required. An extra £12bn was estimated to be needed for social care in England alone this year. The Prime Minister’s commitment is a good sign, but additional money is urgently needed for the here and now.

It’s also not just about funding. The changes necessary are far wider than that, in a sector almost brought to its knees. We need a radical new blueprint for social care so that individual needs are better met, and in more innovative ways. This starts with supporting the workforce, making social care more attractive as a career to help tackle a growing recruitment issues.  

There must be a change of the narrative to attract the best talent.  We need a similar focus afforded to teaching with Teach First. Expert care staff and nursing staff need to have the same esteem as teachers and other frontline professionals. Skilled people who help knit communities, pull social levers and nurture potential.

As it stands, there’s a deepening recruitment crisis, providers are haemorrhaging staff to other sectors, care is being rationed and stretched council budgets are not keeping up with rising demand.

In broadening our horizons on what social care can do, we should also look at the role of technology in people’s homes and care settings .  It has huge potential to promote independence and should be part of our ambition for the sector.

Boris’s plan will be under the microscope in the weeks ahead. I look forward to seeing how big the Government is dreaming as far as social care is concerned. We’ll be looking at the detail to make sure disabled people’s needs have been properly considered and hope the government consider committing to more direct funds in the Comprehensive Spending Review. 

But one thing is certain. This issue can’t be put on the back burner yet again. The cost of that could be truly devastating.

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